The first time George Todd sailed, he took to the seas for two years. His initial voyage carried him from Hong Kong through the West Indies and, eventually, to America. He was hooked. Looking to continue his aquatic explorations, the former Navy pilot and officer set out to build his own vessel from many of the materials he obtained on his travels. The elegant result was the Schooner Mallory Todd, a 65-foot yacht furnished with the trappings of a bygone nautical age: antique stained glass, rubbed mahogany, and a main saloon outfitted with porcelain fireplaces.
Today, the Schooner Mallory Todd takes to the waters helmed by a dedicated crew. A US Coast Guard-certified captain mans voyages for up to 30 passengers at a time, guiding guests through the mountain-framed reaches of Lake Washington and Lake Union. Along the way, the ship might pass the iconic houseboats featured in Sleepless in Seattle, or drift by bald eagles building their nests and combing over their neck plumage.
Besides running charters, Todd helms his own nonprofit, the Sailing Heritage Society. Every year, the organization grants more than 100 free sailing trips to ill and underserved children. All fees for charters on the Schooner Mallory Todd support the society's charitable voyages.
The Electric Boat Company sets customers loose on Lake Union in trusty, battery-powered Duffy boats. Set-sailors steer their own 21-foot craft while traditional lake chanteys spill from the sound system, which includes a CD player and an iPod jack. Other passengers can lounge on leather seats in the cabin area, whose windows can be kept open to invite in the breeze or fully closed to avoid being poked by a marlin. Before a trip, guests can pack a cooler with snacks, pick up forgotten ice and drinks at the on-site snack shop, or satisfy appetites at lakeside restaurants.
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Alki Kayak Tours and her sister store, Mountain to Sound Outfitters, equip guests with all the tools necessary to delve into Puget Sound’s surrounding wilderness regardless of season. Authorized dealers of goods from outdoor brands including Rossignol, Nordica, Snap Dragon, and Boardworks SUP, Mountain to Sound Outfitters’ knowledgeable equipment masters can outfit expeditions bound for skiing trips to Mount Rainier or full-contact LARPing in Olympic National Park. Alki Kayak Tours keeps adventures moving with vehicle rentals ranging from kayaks and paddleboards to fishing boats and bikes. Guided sea-kayak and paddleboard tours meander through Puget Sound during warmer months, introducing adventurers to the Emerald City’s fragile natural beauty and the mindful guides’ various methods of preserving it.
For more than 40 years, Seattle Sailing Club has made sailing into both a sport and a social event. Club members have access to a fleet of 26 boats, from small keelboats to 40-footers, which they can take out on Puget Sound at their leisure. Membership levels allow for unlimited day sailing or a pay-as-you-go arrangement, as well as overnight sailing for captains who have memorized where all the stop signs are. New sailors and weathered seadogs alike can sign up for lessons taught by licensed instructors, as well as pick up the latest gear. And the club emphasizes the community aspect of boating as well?members frequently come together for races, parties, and group flotillas.
The summer may be ending, but it's not too late to step the mast, rig the sail, and head out on the open water of Lake Washington. This Groupon gets you an adult unlimited sailing pass for the rest of the year to Sail Sand Point, located along the western shore of Lake Washington just five miles north of the University of Washington. A membership gets you and up to three friends out on the water with access to Sail Sand's range of boats. The adult pass is normally $175 for the whole summer, whether you buy it in May or September (though they do offer an early bird special of $150 if you purchase before April 1). With this Groupon, just $50 will get you in on the action for the rest of the 2009 sailing season. Note: Sail Sand Point closes on October 15—that's two months of sailing and access to Sail Sand Point boats.
Now in its 32nd year, the Lake Union Boats Afloat Show gives guests the chance to check out hundreds of seaworthy craft, including sailboats, yachts, and trawlers. The more than 50 brands of yachts on display will include Bayliner, Westport, and Sunseeker, with roughly 30 vendors of insurance, maintenance, and other supplemental services on hand to help boat owners protect their investment. Attendees will also get to climb aboard and inspect the 64-foot Ocean Watch—which circumnavigated the Americas for a year in support of oceanic health—and discuss the epic voyage with the crew, as well as take part in interactive activities.